South Dade – New Florida Members living in Senate District 40 rejoiced Tuesday night, as they celebrated their work in helping to elected Annette Taddeo to the State Senate.
Taddeo beat out Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz 51 percent to 47 percent, with Independent Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth pulling in 2 percent of the vote. Early totals had nearly 15% of the district voting, with 49,025 ballots initially counted.
“This is more than a political win, it’s a community win,” said Venusmia Fernández-Lovely, who headed up NewFM’s field operations in the district. “Longstanding community organizations and residents who have been here for years came together to make sure that residents not only participated but they elected a candidate who was going to fight for their interests day in and day out.”
Fernandez said that she was impressed by the team that helped canvass the district, including volunteers from Prosperity of Warrior’s Community Development Corp (POWCDC), a group of military veterans dedicated to helping those who have served in the armed forces.
“Lots of people were knocking on doors even though they themselves didn’t have electricity or fresh water in their homes,” said Fernandez. “People like Richard Love and the POWCDC, many of whom were veterans with disabilities, were key reasons why Annette was able to pull out the win that she did.”
Although Hurricane Irma destabilized neighborhoods all over Florida, local and state election officials denied requests to give the public more time to extend the election. Not to be discouraged, NewFM members knocked on thousands of doors in the last month, urging friends and neighbors to get out the vote and let their voice be heard.
“I think this race will be one for the history books of Florida because it shows you that money, party branding, and data aren’t more important the getting in front of people and having community validation with significant and genuine touch points,” said resident and NewFM South Dade organizer Denzel Burnside III. “I’m very proud of all the pastors, collective orgs, and ground teams that coordinated to push our candidate in spite of all the Hurricane setbacks.”
Burnside said that the win was also fueled by Taddeo’s commitment to center her campaign on what she learned through direct contact with residents and community leaders.
“I like to believe that Annette came to a deeper understanding of all of the facets of the South Dade community,” continued Burnside. “Her approach to this was completely different than other races of the past. This time around, she went out of her way to sit down and ask us leaders and stakeholders how could she be assistance over telling us what she could do. Doing that, she became more of the people’s candidate that we need and not just a politician seeking office.”
Taddeo now goes to Tallahassee, where she will finish out the term that Republican Frank Artiles initially started. Artiles was forced to resign this spring when the initial news of racist and sexist comments about African American colleagues opened up a history additional homophobic and harassing behavior. A diverse cross section of community leaders in his district and the editorial boards of the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times were among the thousands voices that forced the state senator’s resignation. Now, says NewFM Executive Director Andrea Mercado, the community has someone who will not be silent on the matters that are important to them.
“This is an important victory for democracy and community involvement,” said Mercado. “In a rejection of Trumpism, Taddeo won early voting by 34% and Election Day by 19%. It’s an indication that we will continue to see communities go to the polls for candidates that represent progressive values – if those candidates do the work of engaging with residents and local leaders.”